I try to publish two new posts a week on this blog, but this week I didn’t have the words to put together a coherent thought. I’ll do my best to get back to regular posts soon. This morning, after 3 ½ hours of sleep, I’m sure I’m still not coherent, but I’m going to try to write anyway.
I spent this past week in turmoil of my own creation, absolutely uncertain that moving across the country is the best thing for me right now. I have had a hell of a few months; if I’d posted the half-story that so often goes up on Facebook, it would have looked incredible. In many ways, it has been incredible, but this period has also been the hardest of my life: hands down, flat-out, no question. In rapid succession, my job ended, my relationship ended, and I moved out of my house, putting my stuff in storage just before going to Europe on a long-planned trip. Though I didn’t realize it, I avoided the reality of those changes by quickly accepting a job back in May that didn’t start right away, and then running around the country visiting friends and family. I loved it, but it took on a manic quality: look at me, I’m in Michigan/California/Texas/North Carolina/New Jersey/New York!!
Two weeks ago, I stopped traveling so much – ostensibly because I needed to pack – and gave myself just enough time to fall apart. Suddenly I felt the full weight of the fact that my life has changed so much since the spring. I realized that I really was not returning to the place I loved calling home, or to the person who felt like that to me.
In that realization came a new level of grief, and a tremendous amount of doubt. Really, in so many ways, I don’t want to move across the country, by myself, at this point in my life. I am scared in ways that I did not know I could be scared: scared by the loneliness, scared by the prospect of missing out on things happening here, scared by leaving the people I love most in the world at a time when I feel incredibly raw. I crave comfort right now, and ease; in the guest bedroom of my mother’s house as I write, I have that in droves.
Yet I’m pretty sure that life is not always meant to be comfortable.
There are lots of things that people don’t want; we all experience loss; life doesn’t happen as we planned. In this week, I’ve sought out the advice of the ages, looking to words from wise strangers and my even wiser family and friends, looking for resonance to guide me on these next steps. Among the many perspectives I have sought out in these weeks, I have returned to some words from Pema Chodron:
Instead of making ourselves right or wrong, or bottling up right and wrong in ourselves, there’s a middle way, a very powerful middle way. We could see it as sitting on the razor’s edge, not falling off to the right or the left…At that particular point, we could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where we could live.
This resonates with me. Life is not black and white; there are, instead, so many colors. On this razor’s edge, I find myself admitting things that humble me, that make me vulnerable:
I am terrified.
I am uncertain.
I am longing for a life that is no longer an option to me.
I am still in love, but need to let go.
I am tempted to stay at my mom’s house, feel this comfort, and never leave.
Our culture is one that says to push through pain: keep going, feel the fear, and smash through it. But doing that is so much harder than it sounds. We’re not supposed to slow down, be vulnerable, admit that we’re scared.
Well, I can’t do that today. I am terrified. I am leaving in three hours; it’s going to be a long week. I will, for the most part, spend each night with different people that I love, going from one place where I am welcomed and loved to the next. In this way, I’ll trace my way across the country. In so doing, I am admitting the changes in my life, and accepting them in a way I have not yet done. I don’t want to do that because the reality is that I don’t want these things to be true.
Back in May, when I accepted this position, I thought about how this move would feel like an adventure if the man with whom I’d just parted was coming with me. Not one to back down from a challenge, I decided that – fuck it – I’d make it an adventure anyway. It hasn’t turned out the way that I thought it would: I’m not going on a grand sightseeing tour of the United States, I’m not brimming with excitement at my new life, and I am desperately missing the one I am leaving behind.
When I was a freshman in college, 17 years old and in my first semester in a dorm room with cinderblock walls, I wrote out on a piece of paper some of the things I wanted to do in my life. I wish that I could find that piece of paper; I’m so curious to know what I wanted that long ago. But I do know a few things that were on there: write a great book, learn French. And the one that stands out to me today was this one: Never live in fear.
If I had decided not to move across the country, that would have been a bold choice to walk into something else that is unknown. It would have been an effort towards comfort and self-care, and those are incredibly important. It would have been a good choice. Yet if I had chosen that, I could not have been sure that some part of me wasn’t running away from the things I do not want to face. I could not say for certain that I wasn’t setting myself to live in fear.
I wish that there was a “right” thing to do here. I wish that I knew what it was. I wish that I could curl up this morning in this soft cloud of a bed and simply go back to sleep. I’m not, though.
I’m going to get up, get dressed, and pack up my car. I’m going to get on the road, carrying the love that has surrounded and held me these months, to see what else I can see. In so many ways, I don’t want to; I feel panicked, like I want to put on the brakes, screech to a halt, and close my eyes.
I open them, instead. Put one foot in front of the other. And go.
3 comments on “The uncomfortable comfort”
Anna, you’re an amazing woman. I am thankful i was able to go through part of your journey with you. Remember that you are always, always welcome here, for comfort or for celebration! You know you carry a little piece of my heart with you always.
I love you.
Hi Anna. I recently Googled “moving across country introvert”, as I’m doing this same thing very soon. So much of this post resonates strongly with me. I vacillate, sometimes multiple times in a day, between fervent inspiration and terror, and my move isn’t happening for a month yet. I’m moving somewhere with a guaranteed job, lots of friends I already know, and lots of ways to fulfill my hobbies, but 28 years in the same place is a tough rut — a canyon, more like it — to climb out of. Thanks for these inspiring words. If there’s any way you can tell me more about your experience, please drop me a line as my email is linked to this comment — please don’t feel obligated as I don’t know you.
Thanks again for this post.
Hi Tim – Thanks so much for taking the time to both read and respond to this post. Reading what you’ve written here, I find myself thinking that you’ve already made the decision and the move is in process; now it’s just a matter of letting it ride. Something I learned a long time ago from a friend of mine is that very few things in life can be undone – and if the universe is urging you forward in this way, there might be something necessary waiting there, hoping you will discover it. At the same time, there isn’t anything wrong with staying where you are (though, if you’re in a self-described canyon, I wonder if you’re curious to climb up out of there, and see what else is on the horizon). I am sending you all good energy, and hope you’ll send an update in a month or so, when you’ve taken a step in one direction or another. In the meantime, be good to you. – Anna